paris with love

Hello friends, I'm back. I thought I would start off with a little visual overview of my trip to France. I divided my time there between Paris where I started and ended my journey and the Loire Valley. It definitely is a country that has its own style and feel to it. Coming from North America where advertising and billboards dominate the landscape, I was really impressed by the way the French have managed to preserve the history and integrity of their towns and cities. What a pleasure not to see fast food restaurants, mobile phone advertisements, and big box stores everywhere. Oh and the fashion - amazing! The women as expected were astonishingly stylish but it was the men that really impressed me. They really put their North American counterparts to shame.

Of course, a trip to Paris without shopping would be incomplete. I followed many of your suggestions and checked out stores far and wide. One of my favorite things about exploring new cities is that you never know what will be around the next corner. Wide-eyed, I wandered from place to place often with only a loose agenda in mind. The nicest surprise was coming across the Astier de Villatte store on Rue Saint-Honore. I wasn't looking out for it and was blown away when I walked inside. Their selection of handcrafted plates, bowls, cups, and platters is breathtaking. Luckily for my wallet, I couldn't imagine how I would get any of these delicate pieces home. The store is divided in the front and back by a staircase that goes upstairs to a small clothing boutique. On the wall is a rustic porcelain sink that just screamed Parisian style to me. The light was hitting it just perfectly and I just had to capture the moment. Finally, I knew I was in the epicenter of all things fashionable when I spotted Carine Roitfeld, Editor-in-Chief for French Vogue, out shopping one Saturday morning. I couldn't resist taking a quick snapshot of her!

So, what was the biggest design lesson I learned from being in France? Well, the thing I noticed again and again was this inherent sense of knowing when to stop. There is a refinement and understanding to their design that comes across in everything they do. From the signs in the store window displays, to the simple yellow post box to the rows of white spined books, to the name plate on the door there was a common sensibility about honest and simple design. Nothing excessive, nothing over the top just well-designed. Wouldn't you agree?

off to paris – help me!

Yes friends, it's true. I'm off to Paris in a few days (poor husband is staying behind to work). Still, I'm very excited. It has been a long time since I've stepped foot in the City of Lights. Don't worry, I have lots of posts archived for you along with an amazing line up of guest bloggers. The posts have been trickling in all weekend and they are SO good. Full of interesting ideas and inspiring images that will keep you humming along. But before we get there I need your help. Where should I go? What should I do? I have a few places in mind. I'm definitely going to take some time to visit all the interesting flea markets or brocantes as they are called in French. I have a wonderful article from the September 2008 issue of the now defunct Gourmet magazine that discusses many of the big ones along with a few that are off the beaten path (always the better way to travel).

High on my list is of places to shop, is the concept store, Merci.

Merci is a cafe and homewares store where ALL the profits are donated to a children's charity in Madagascar. It's a shopping experience you can feel good about! From what I've seen so far, it is not going to disappoint.

I certainly wouldn't mind adding one of those bowls to my tabletop.

I'll also make my way to at least one of the Muji stores. Sadly, we don't have anything like this in Canada. I'm always a little overwhelmed by all the choice whenever I step into a Muji store so please send along your suggestions of what to buy here.

Finally, I'm going to make sure I take a small break from shopping and visit this restaurant in the flagship Galeries Lafayette store. Restaurant Laurier was designed by trend forecaster Li Edelkoort (who I adore!) and art director Andreas Mavrommatis.

Those hammered Moroccan pendant lights and open shelves full of vintage glass and ceramics are already calling my name.

I know I have hardly scraped the surface of all that Paris has to offer so please help me out. I'm open to all and any suggestions from shopping to eating to sightseeing to moments and experiences I just shouldn't miss. And of course, when I'm back I'll share all the things I have seen and done.

All images via Remodelista except the Muji store by Le Figaro - Madame.